Remembering Ron "The Apple Man"


Photo: Zach Potts

Ron “The Apple Man” Nelson, 88, of Burlington, formerly of Rock Island, Washington, died July 28, 2019.

Nelson never lived on the Key Peninsula but by most accounts he spent nearly 40 years selling Wenatchee-grown apples on the KP at affordable prices.

Driving toward Wauna along State Route 302, the sight of his box truck prompted squeals of delight from countless backseats, “Look Mama! Look! The Apple Man!”

Nelson set up his old wooden roadside stand and parked in his customary corner spot just east of 118th Avenue NW, inside Charboneau Construction Supply yard. “I bought fruit from him for over 20 years”

Tom Main, manager of the yard since 2008, said he got to know Nelson pretty well over the years. “He was a great guy; a very generous man and not without his own opinions.”

September 2018 marked Nelson’s last visit to the KP. His health in decline, his truck stopped coming and people wondered whatever happened to the Apple Man.

“I bought fruit from him for over 20 years,” Leonie Potts said. “He was a sweet man and loved telling jokes; ‘Have you ever tried a Pink Lady?' ”

Years ago, Potts and her teen-aged son Zach stopped to buy apples. Potts said Nelson wasn’t feeling too well that day and asked, “Say, how about leaving your boy here to help me finish the day?”

Zach Potts, 18, spent over three summers working for the infamous Apple Man. “The average stop was five or 10 minutes,” Zach said. At first, he said he recognized people by what they drove and later by what they purchased. Eventually he remembered some people’s names.

“I’d say to him, ‘Here comes the lady who buys horse apples for the deer,’ but it seemed like Ron already knew everyone.”